Friday, October 10, 2008


Genetic Research: Protecting A Plant's "Dignity" For years, Swiss scientists have blithely created genetically modified rice, corn and apples. But did they ever stop to consider just how humiliating such experiments may be to plants? That's a question they must now ask. Last spring, this small Alpine nation began mandating that geneticists conduct their research without trampling on a plant's dignity. "Unfortunately, we have to take it seriously," Beat Keller, a molecular biologist at the University of Zurich. "It's one more constraint on doing genetic research." Dr. Keller recently sought government permission to do a field trial of genetically modified wheat that has been bred to resist a fungus. He first had to debate the finer points of plant dignity with university ethicists. Then, in a written application to the government, he tried to explain why the planned trial wouldn't "disturb the vital functions or lifestyle" of the plants. He eventually got the green light. The rule, based on a constitutional amendment, came into being after the Swiss Parliament asked a panel of philosophers, lawyers, geneticists and theologians to establish the meaning of flora's dignity. "We couldn't start laughing and tell the government we're not going to do anything about it," says Markus Schefer, a member of the ethics panel and a professor of law at the University of Basel. "The constitution requires it." In April, the team published a 22-page treatise on "the moral consideration of plants for their own sake." It stated that vegetation has an inherent value and that it is immoral to arbitrarily harm plants by, say, "decapitation of wildflowers at the roadside without rational reason." On the question of genetic modification, most of the panel argued that the dignity of plants could be safeguarded "as long as their independence, i.e., reproductive ability and adaptive ability, are ensured." In other words: It's wrong to genetically alter a plant and render it sterile....Does this mean I can no longer castrate cacti and that we will soon have a People for the Ethical Treatment of Alfalfa? Of course, it won't be so damn funny when or if this policy comes to our shores. Baxter Black's routine about "screaming" vegetables will take on a whole new meaning.
Army suspends Fort Irwin tortoise relocation plans after deaths of 90 animals The U.S. Army has suspended plans to relocate more than 1,000 desert tortoises from Fort Irwin expansion areas this fall and next spring because at least 15 percent of the tortoises moved earlier this year have died. About 90 of the 556 tortoises moved in the spring are dead, mostly as a result of coyote attacks. Army and federal wildlife officials said this week that a timeout is needed to determine how many of the tortoises, a threatened species, would have died anyway and how many deaths should be attributed to the relocation effort. "We didn't foresee this amount of coyote predation," said Roy Averill-Murray, desert tortoise recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in a phone interview Thursday. Fish and Wildlife granted the permit that allows the tortoises to be moved and has the power to stop the relocation or require changes to ensure the species is not jeopardized....
Western group petitions for species protection A tortoise, a hare, a mouse and a half-dozen mussels. These are just some of the animals and plants that a Western conservation group is seeking protections for under the Endangered Species Act as part of several in-depth petitions filed Thursday with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WildEarth Guardians said the petitions—filed as part of its "Western Ark" project to gain protections for more species in the region—cover a diverse group of 13 plants and animals with ranges that span more than a dozen states and stretch into Mexico and Canada. "We deliberately wanted to petition at once for a variety of plants and animals and this is to underscore that the Endangered Species Act really is like Noah's ark," said Nicole Rosmarino, wildlife program director for WildEarth Guardians. "We want as many species that are in need to board the ark as possible." Nearly all the species listed in the petitions filed Thursday face a common threat of climate change, including the New Mexico meadow jumping mouse, the Jemez Mountains salamander, the white-sided jackrabbit and the Sonoran desert tortoise. The tortoise, which ranges across southern Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, is the focus of one petition filed jointly by WildEarth Guardians and the Western Watersheds Project. The groups say the tortoise's population has been reduced by more than half since 1987, and that urban sprawl, off-roading and grazing continue to put pressure on the species....

BLM wants to increase logging in Oregon Federal officials said Thursday that they want to double logging allowed on 2.6 million acres of forests in western Oregon, a move that would doom more old-growth trees but boost timber-related payments to 18 rural Oregon counties and create an estimated 1,200 new jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management stepped back from an earlier proposal to triple logging in its western Oregon holdings, most in the Coast Range south of Salem. The agency, hit with a critical scientific review earlier this year, also increased buffer zones around streams and said it would defer logging of trees 160 years or older for 15 years to help the threatened northern spotted owl. The timber industry doesn't like the scaled-back plan, saying reduced management of forests will end up hurting county coffers and wildlife as well as loggers and mills. Each year, 1.2 billion board feet of timber grows on the BLM lands, said Tom Partin, president of the American Forest Resource Council. But the plan calls for harvesting 502 million board feet annually, which is down from 727 million proposed last year. "We really hate to see that number slide," Partin said. Environmental groups say the plan is still too aggressive....
What Water Rationing Will Look Like Last September, when a federal judge cut water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, a major source of Southern California's drinking water, the Long Beach Water Department bucked convention: It immediately instituted mandatory restrictions on consumption. As San Diego water agencies have called on residents to voluntarily conserve water, Long Beach has written it into the law. San Diego residents have cut consumption about 6 percent; Long Beach's have cut 9 percent. That small increase in savings has been the difference between meeting conservation goals in Long Beach and missing them here. With water agencies in San Diego County currently considering how they'll handle an expected cut in supplies next year -- what would be the first water rationing since 1992 -- Long Beach's steps offer a glimpse of what may be in store. Endangered species protections in the Sacramento Delta and prolonged drought on the Colorado River, arid San Diego's two main drinking water supplies, threaten to make 2009 a tough water year. Local water agencies are planning for a 10 percent cut in deliveries from the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District, the wholesaler that delivers a majority of San Diego's supply. If that cut comes, the 24 local agencies that supply drinking water to county residents will have to deliver savings or face significant fines....

Guzzling the West’s Water When people think of California and water, they often imagine sprawling cities dotted liberally with swimming pools and watered lawns; legions of vain auto owners washing their SUVs, sports cars, and minivans; and endless acres of verdant golf courses - all sucking down rivers both near and far. This image is partly correct - rivers are going dry. But the major reason is not direct consumption by humans - urbanites running sprinklers on their front yards and the like. In California, the major user of water is agriculture, and within agriculture, the thirstiest commodity is the cow. Overall, agriculture accounts for 83 percent of all water used in California. It’s true that California grows the majority of America’s fruits and vegetables, so liberal use of water by its agricultural sector would not be unexpected. However, few people would suspect that growing feed for cattle are the predominant agricultural use of water in California. In 1997, 1.7 million acres of the state were planted to alfalfa alone. Irrigated pasture and hayfields consume more water than any other single crop in California - more than a third of all irrigation water. Together, alfalfa and hay and pasturage account for approximately half of all water used in the state....
Judge rules for BLM in NM gas well challenge A federal judge has denied a conservation group's effort to require the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to put more work into a plan for nearly 10,000 new gas wells in the San Juan Basin of northern New Mexico. U.S. District Judge Judith C. Herrera, in a 39-page decision last week, said the BLM followed the National Environmental Policy Act and other federal laws in developing a 2003 management plan for drilling over 20 years in the 16,000-square-mile basin that straddles the border of New Mexico and Colorado. "Having exhaustively reviewed the voluminous record ... the court finds the BLM acted appropriately," she wrote in the Sept. 30 decision. Steve Henke, district manager for the BLM's Farmington field office in northwestern New Mexico, said agency officials were pleased by the ruling. The BLM has been working under the plan for five years, since there was no injunction on development while the lawsuit by the San Juan Citizens Alliance was pending. Henke said nearly 3,000 natural gas wells have been drilled in the area since the plan's approval, with about half the production coming from coal bed methane near Fruitland. The resource management plan authorizes nearly 27,000 acres of new surface disturbance on land under the Farmington office, increasing total acreage for oil and gas infrastructure to 110,400. The plan's preferred alternative could increase carbon monoxide emissions by 42,000 tons a year and nitrogen oxides by more than 43.5 tons a year by 2024....
Devil's Hole pupfish count rebounds Tiny neon-blue pupfish that are struggling to survive in a spring-fed cave in Nye County have rebounded this fall to 126 adult fish, 34 more than last fall's count and the highest number recorded since 2004, a federal biologist said Wednesday. "We're feeling pretty good," said Bob Williams, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service field supervisor for Nevada. "We're feeling like we're at least maintaining the population. There is still lots and lots of work to do," he said about the endangered Devil's Hole pupfish that exist in the wild only around a shelf in the water-filled limestone cave, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. For unknown reasons the species began steadily declining in about 1995 after historically numbering about 500 since the mid-1970s. They reached a low of 38 fish in the spring of 2006. But the population, which is in a part of Death Valley National Park within Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, took a sharp turn for the worse in September 2004. That's when a flash flood sent a tub of glass fish traps tumbling into the hole, killing about one-third of the pupfish population at the time, 80 in all. The traps were being used by Southern Oregon University researchers to assess pupfish reproduction....

Feds to use computer chips to foil cactus thieves Anyone thinking of swiping a stately saguaro cactus from the desert could soon be hauling off more than just a giant plant. National Park Service officials plan to imbed microchips in Arizona's signature plant to protect them from thieves who rip them from the desert to sell them to landscapers, nurseries and homeowners. The primary objective is deterrence, but the chips also will aid in tracking down and identifying stolen saguaros, said Bob Love, chief ranger at southern Arizona's Saguaro National Park. "There's probably more of it that occurs than we're aware of," said Love. The largest theft at the park occurred last year, when 17 saguaros were dug up and stashed for transportation later. The culprits were caught but Love said there have been other cases where three to five plants have been taken at a time. Saguaros are unique to the Sonoran Desert, 120,000 square miles covering portions of Arizona, California and the northern Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora. They're majestic giants that can grow to heights of 50 feet, sprout gaggles of arms and weigh several tons. They can take 50 years to flower and 70 years before sprouting an arm. A 2000 census of the two districts making up the Saguaro National Park outside Tucson estimated that there were 1.3 million saguaros there....

Worries aired about Navy test range expansion East Jefferson County residents told Navy officials at a public hearing that they worried that an expanded undersea warfare test range in Hood Canal would result in less recreational and commercial water access. "My concern is that this range expansion proposal may limit recreational opportunities on the waters," said Don Coleman, owner of Brinnon-based Pacific Adventures scuba diving who also works at Pleasant Harbor Marina. Coleman said Navy officials have told him not to enter Quilcene Bay when the range was active. "I am fully against expansion," he said. Under the proposal, three test ranges would be expanded, and two of the three ranges would have a slight increase in the number of days per year that they are used by the Navy....

Humane Society Charged with Illegal Use of Recorded Phone Calls The United Egg Producers filed requests Monday with the district attorneys in Montgomery, Md., and Sacramento County, Calif., alleging that an employee of the Humane Society of the United States "impersonated an egg industry ally" and illegally taped telephone conversations with a UEP staff member by not advising the staff member that the conversations were being recorded and that HSUS then used the illegally recorded information to support a California political campaign. UEP's filings maintain that the calls were made from a phone in Maryland, where recording phone calls without permission of all involved parties is illegal, and that the information obtained in the calls then was disclosed to a former HSUS operative in California, where it is illegal to disclose information that's the consequence of illegally recorded phone calls. The information was used to further the HSUS-led ballot initiative on farm animal housing, known as Proposition 2, or "Prop 2," according to the filings. The former HSUS operative is the spokesperson for the group supporting Prop 2. Prop 2 would make almost all egg production in California illegal....Also see Lawsuit accuses egg producers over humane conditions, pricing

Border ranchers are seeking ‘surge' on fever tick front Texas border ranchers said Thursday they are ready to head to Washington to bring attention to their losing struggle against the cattle fever tick. The tick once decimated the American cattle industry. It now has spread to an area three times the zone where for decades it had been contained. “We are involved in three wars — the war on terror, the war on drugs and the war on ticks,” Zapata County rancher Humberto Vela told colleagues, animal health officials and others gathered here. “We have made some progress, but the ticks have made more progress.” Vela called for a “surge” in manpower and resources to keep the tick from infecting cattle in interior counties. The ticks are considered eradicated in the United States, save for a narrow zone along the Mexican border, where they cross the Rio Grande on the backs of wayward Mexican livestock....

Thursday, October 09, 2008


ABC News - Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans Despite pledges by President George W. Bush and American intelligence officials to the contrary, hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003. Kinne described the contents of the calls as "personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism." She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States. Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007. "Calling home to the United States, talking to their spouses, sometimes their girlfriends, sometimes one phone call following another," said Faulk. The accounts of the two former intercept operators, who have never met and did not know of the other's allegations, provide the first inside look at the day to day operations of the huge and controversial US terrorist surveillance program. "There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect," said President Bush at a news conference this past February. Faulk says he and others in his section of the NSA facility at Fort Gordon routinely shared salacious or tantalizing phone calls that had been intercepted, alerting office mates to certain time codes of "cuts" that were available on each operator's computer. "Hey, check this out," Faulk says he would be told, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk and we would say, 'Wow, this was crazy'," Faulk told ABC News. In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted. "It's not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it," Gen. Hayden testified....

Eavesdropping powers abused without oversight In the most unsurprising revelation imaginable, two former Army Reserve Arab linguists for the National Security Agency have said that they routinely eavesdropped on — “and recorded and transcribed” — the private telephone calls of American citizens who had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism. The two former NSA employees, who came forward as part of journalist James Bamford’s forthcoming book on the NSA, intercepted calls as part of the so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program,” whereby George Bush ordered the NSA in 2001 to eavesdrop on Americans’ calls in secret, without first obtaining judicial approval as required by the law (FISA). That illegal eavesdropping continued for at least six years — through 2007. When Ross showed Kinne a video excerpt of George Bush insisting to the nation that only those with links to Al Qaeda were eavesdropped on as part of his illegal spying program, the following exchange occurred: ROSS: Kinne says she listened to hundreds of Americans simply calling their families …KINNE: Personal, private things with Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything having anything to do with terrorism. It was just personal conversations that nobody else should have been listening to. ROSS: President Bush has reassured Americans again and again: GEORGE BUSH: It’s phone calls of known Al Qaeda suspects making a phone call into the United States. KINNE: I would say that that is completely a lie — I would call it a lie — because we were definitely listening to Americans who had nothing to do with terrorism… ROSS: Kinne says she intercepted, recorded, and transcribed conversations with the military, journalists, and Red Cross and aid workers. Most disturbing here is that these calls were not merely surveilled, but were recorded and transcribed. In whose custody are these recordings and transcripts and what was done with them?....

Telecom Surveillance to Receive Get-Out-of-Jail-Free Card The Department of Justice (DOJ) is seeking retroactive immunity for the telecommunications companies that cooperated with the National Security Agency's (NSA) warrantless surveillance program, utilizing power granted in the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. On Sept. 19, the DOJ filed a motion to dismiss Hepting v. AT&T and more than 40 other lawsuits against telecommunications companies that provided data to the NSA. This motion was enabled by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (H.R. 6304). These cases were initially pursued by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which has called the NSA program "dragnet surveillance." The FISA Amendments Act states that cases can not be maintained if the Attorney General certifies that the defendant's actions were authorized by the president. Mukasey issued a blanket certification the same day he filed the motion to dismiss. The letter does not specify which telecommunications companies assisted the government because, according to Mukasey, releasing such information "would cause exceptional harm to the national security of the United States." Nor does the public certification specify which one of five provisions of the amended FISA renders the companies exempt from litigation. Mukasey asserted that eavesdropping was narrowly targeted solely to al Qaeda affiliates and not a wider dragnet. Mark Klein, a former AT&T engineer turned whistleblower, disputed this in a 2006 statement about equipment he helped the NSA install that intercepted all of AT&T's Internet and phone traffic, conducting what he called "vacuum-cleaner surveillance." Klein served as a plaintiff's witness for the telecommunications lawsuits....
Judge Excludes Evidence in Alaska Senator’s Trial The federal judge presiding over the corruption trial of Senator Ted Stevens dealt a sharp blow to the prosecution on Wednesday by excluding some evidence because he said Justice Department prosecutors used documents that they knew contained lies. The judge, Emmet G. Sullivan of Federal District Court, declined to declare a mistrial or dismiss any of the seven felony counts, as had been urged by Mr. Stevens’s lawyers. But Judge Sullivan delivered a severe scolding to the prosecution and said he would bar the government from using two categories of evidence central to its case. Perhaps more important, he said he would tell the jury on Thursday that he was excluding some of the prosecution’s evidence because “the government presented evidence the government knew was not true,” an instruction that is likely to undermine the credibility of the prosecution. In a special hearing outside the presence of the jury, Judge Sullivan said, “The government knew the documents were lies.”...So what's new? What's new is they got caught.
Navy may outweigh whales on Supreme Court's scales Whales may simply have to pay the price as the Navy prepares for war, Supreme Court justices suggested Wednesday. In a closely watched environmental case, justices repeatedly sounded sympathetic Wednesday morning to Pentagon officials who want to run large-scale Navy exercises off the Southern California coast. While the resulting underwater sonar storm disturbs marine mammals, it also helps prepare sailors for combat. "I thought the whole point of the armed forces was to hurt the environment," Justice Stephen Breyer said, half-jokingly. "Of course, they're going to do harm." The Pentagon and environmentalists disagree over exactly how much mid-frequency active sonar injures marine mammals, and justices couldn't resolve the conflict Wednesday. An apparent majority of justices, though, did appear ready to defer to military expertise in matters of national security. The technical but crucial legal question in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council is when a federal agency can sidestep conventional environmental protections by declaring an emergency. A Pentagon victory could make such emergency declarations more common, and on more than just military matters....

Environmental Groups Out on a Limb? The Supreme Court justices on Wednesday seemed receptive to government arguments that a coalition of environmental groups lacked standing to bring a challenge to U.S. Forest Service regulations because their claims were not tied to a specific site or project. In the Forest Service case, Summers v. Earth Island Institute, the environmental organizations challenged regulations under the Forest Service's Appeals Reform Act that exempted certain projects from notice, comment and appeal requirements. The challenge initially involved the Burnt Ridge Project in Sequoia National Forest, but after the project was withdrawn and the parties settled the case, the environmental groups continued to pursue a facial challenge to the regulations. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's injunction against the implementation of the regulations nationwide. Deputy Solicitor General Edwin S. Kneedler argued on behalf of the government that the environmental groups could only establish standing to challenge the regulations "by showing an imminent injury by virtue of harm to a site-specific activity." Matt Kenna of the Western Environmental Law Center, who represented the environmental groups, told the justices that the facial challenge to the regulations "could have been brought outside the context of the Burnt Ridge Project, as long as we had shown that it had been applied to a project and continued to be applied to the plaintiffs on an ongoing basis." But Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. said the environmental groups had not pointed to any other concrete action implicated by the regulations....

5% of sage grouse habitat protected on US land A new study by an environmental group that wants the sage grouse listed as a threatened or endangered species shows less than 5 percent of what's left of its dwindling habitat across the West is currently federally protected. The new assessment found four-fifths of the chicken-sized game bird's habitat is adversely affected by either livestock grazing, natural gas and oil development or invasive weeds. "Existing threats to sage grouse and their habitat are enormous," said a copy of the report by WildEarth Guardians obtained by The Associated Press. "Livestock grazing, natural gas and oil development, agricultural conversion, roads, fences, power lines and pipelines, off-road vehicle use, urban sprawl, mining, unnatural fire and invasive weeds are destroying or degrading much of what remains," the group said in the report being made public on Thursday. It singled out livestock grazing—permitted on 91 percent of the bird's range—as "the most ubiquitous use of sage grouse habitat on federal public land." Critics of the report, including the head of the Nevada Department of Wildlife and others who oppose federal listing of the bird, said the study places too much emphasis on grazing and drilling while ignoring other threats to the species such as drought and West Nile virus. "Some of the things they are saying are true, but it is an anti-grazing bent. The situation is way more complicated than what they are talking about here," NDOW Director Kenneth Mayer said. "West Nile and wildfires are the issue, not livestock grazing in my mind."....The "anti-grazing bent" is there because their goal is to eliminate grazing, not protect the sage grouse.
Congress probes BLM environmental review process The U.S. Congress is investigating the way the Bureau of Land Management has bypassed environmental reviews when issuing drilling permits for oil and gas in recent years. The BLM’s Pinedale field office is among those under investigation, officials confirmed Wednesday. The Government Accountability Office, which is the investigative arm of Congress, sent auditors to Utah this week, and tentatively plans to have personnel in Wyoming by the end of this month, said GAO Assistant Director Jeff Malcolm. The investigators will examine the way the BLM has implemented a legal but relatively new tool to exempt some oil and gas drilling from environmental review, said Robin Nazzarro, director of the GAO’s natural resources and environmental team. A spokeswoman for the BLM in Wyoming said the agency welcomes the review and looks forward to working with the investigators. Conservation organizations, however — who have been fighting against these “categorical exclusions” for oil and gas drilling since they were implemented in 2005 — said the Congressional investigation indicates that at least some members of Congress believe the BLM has misused these tools.

Livestock deaths linked to milkweed A histopathology study conducted by the University of Arizona Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory indicates that two cows and five pregnant ewes in the Snowflake area died in September from milkweed poisoning. The animals belonged to Pat Wallin, who is employed by Dr. Milton DeSpain at the Cedar Ridge Veterinary Center in Snowflake. Wallin says the milkweed was in baled hay from the Catalyst Paper Mill farms. Her husband discovered the dead cows and sheep when he went out to feed them in the morning on Sept. 11. The Wallins decided to have a necropsy performed to determine the cause of death. Wallin said the animals were kept in clean pens and fed only hay from the paper mill farms and pellets. A veterinarian took tissue samples from the dead animals as well as hay samples and sent them to the University of Arizona laboratory Sept. 16. They saved the remaining hay bales. Mike Reidhead, manager of the paper mill farms, said, "We heard the rumors and we've been looking into it. We've had the hay tested ,and we can't find it [milkweed] in the hay." Reidhead said hay from the paper mill farm was sent to a laboratory for testing and it came back negative for milkweed. "It's all I feed, and I haven't lost any animals yet," Reidhead said. He raises both cattle and horses....

McCain and the Maverick San Antonio Connection So why does McCain have San Antonio to thank for that maverick label? Because the word maverick was born here in San Antonio, though it didn't originally have quite the macho or honest reformer connotation it does today. Samuel Augustus Maverick (1803-1870) is variously described as a land speculator, rancher, merchant and lawyer who was born in South Carolina, went to Yale, then wound up in Texas in 1835 just as the push for independence from Mexico began. Maverick was actually in the Alamo compound in March of 1836 just days before the famous battle and he might have died there with the other defenders. But they happened to elect him a delegate to a convention 150 miles to the east of San Antonio. So he was gone when Santa Anna finally laid siege to the Alamo. Instead, Maverick was signing the Texas Declaration of Independence, then helping write the constitution for the new Republic of Texas. Maverick bought some cattle and here is where the real maverick connection begins-- though there are a few different versions of exactly how it happened. He either refused to brand his cattle or just neglected to do it. Either way, in these years before there were any fences to separate one ranch from another, cowboys would find stray, unbranded calves and came to refer to them as Mavericks. Within a matter of years the maverick label would be applied to all unbranded cattle no longer part of the herd. And later "mavericking" became a not-so-flattering verb meaning to go out and round up any unbranded cattle and brand them as your own. That finders-keepers-losers-weepers meaning morphed into stealing and was outlawed by the 1870's. By the end of the 1800's a maverick also had come to mean a person who refused to be branded or part of a herd. A nonconformist or rebel. Independent, unconventional and unorthodox. Someone who won't be constrained by party labels. Something like Samuel Maverick himself, a lifelong Democrat....

Western Attire “They dream it up, and we make it happen,” Lelan Keffer, leadman of the set-dressing department for the new locally-shot western Appaloosa, tells SFR. The dream that Keffer, who has lived in Santa Fe for 28 years, refers to is the cinematic dream: the dream of a film completed. As a leadman, Keffer sits perched smack-dab in the middle of the chain that, in big-budget films, brings those dreams into physical reality. Well, “reality,” that is, if you can call an entirely fake town “reality.” Keffer leads the set-dressers, who do the actual painting, hammering and, as Keffer says, “whatever it takes.” He answers to the set decorator, who picks out the actual stuff of a film, from the chairs to the paintings that hang on the walls. And the set decorator, in turn, takes his or her directions from the production designer, who conceptualizes the overarching look of a film—the entire spaceship or, in the case of Appaloosa, the entire frontier. The New Mexico town of Appaloosa was created largely on a private ranch an hour from Santa Fe, has a 360-degree civilization-less view and is outfitted with a western set that was originally constructed for 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma. Since our very job as film watchers is to suspend disbelief—to ignore the unreality—it makes sense that we often take the set design and all the hard work that goes into a film’s look for granted. We’re supposed to. But an incredible amount of research and creative energy goes into “making it happen.” Santa Fe-based set dresser Ginger Dunnill [full disclosure: Dunnill is a friend of the Screener], who worked under Keffer, tells SFR about the attention paid to detail in Appaloosa, from making sure the nails were “period” to learning how people used to stack wood on old wood-burning trains. As Dunnill puts it, “You can’t put a lamp or a stove in that was invented in 1860 if the movie is set in 1790.” Appaloosa looks great, from the rugged New Mexican exteriors to the saloon interiors....
New wolf video from High Country News

Hi,
Here at High Country News we're excited about our new video, Still
Howling Wolf. The film describes the 13-year-long effort to reintroduce
gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. The video explores the passionate
and complicated feelings people have about living with wolves in the
Northern Rockies.

Here's the link to the video: http://www.hcn.org/articles/video-still-howling-wolf

We hope you enjoy this piece, and please let us know what you think.

Best,
Jodi
--
Jodi Peterson
Associate Editor
High Country News

jodi@hcn.org
EDITORIAL: Red Rock fees

If the job is spending money, who you gonna call?

The federal government.

In 2003, the Elko Daily Free Press reported that Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest Supervisor Bob Vaught -- pressed by a local lawmaker and others protesting the Forest Service's actions in closing off access to public lands in Jarbidge Canyon -- admitted spending $15,000 to hire Enviroclean Septic Service out of Twin Falls to swoop in by helicopter and clean a single outhouse at Snowslide Gulch at the end of South Canyon Road, in lieu of accepting an offer by Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, and local contractor Mike Lattin to arrange for the work to be done by citizen volunteers for free.

Why? Because, to accept that offer, the Forest Service would have had to allow the public to enter its own public lands.

But $15,000 was chickenfeed compared with an expenditure first celebrated by USA Today in late 1987, when the newspaper reported "Sometime in the summer of 1988, in the wondrous high country of Montana's Glacier National Park, construction workers will put the finishing touches on a new federal building. Designed by six architects and engineers employed by the National Park Service, the two-story structure is truly unique: a $1 million, four-hole outhouse that will serve only a few thousand of the 2 million visitors who flock to Glacier each year. ...

"To Ed Venetz, the private contractor who is supervising the job, the rustic, 28-by-19-foot outhouse is a thing of beauty. 'She's just a Plain Jane, like sitting in a prison toilet,' Venetz says of his creation, 'but she will last forever.' "

Bureau of Land management officials now in charge of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, a few miles west of Las Vegas, have yet to match those kinds of breathtaking expenditures. But they're working on it.

Red Rock is not your high-tech tourist destination. There are no rides, steamboats or miniature railroads -- not even a petting zoo. (Most of that stuff is available down the road, at the private Bonnie Springs Ranch.)

But bureau officials have nonetheless decided the $5 per vehicle and $2 per motorcycle they've been charging since 1997 for those who want to transit the conservation area's 13-mile scenic drive are not enough. The entrance fees are going to be increased, BLM officials said Tuesday -- though they can't yet say by how much.

Fee collections put $1.6 million in the local BLM's coffers in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.

Where does that money go? $178,000 per year now goes to "fee collection expenses." When you add the cost of "interpretative assistance" -- you know, "That's a rattlesnake" -- to that of "fee booth operation," you reach $408,000 per year.

A draft budget planning document shows more than 50 BLM staff members are now involved with "maintaining and operating" Red Rock Canyon's facilities, which include no known moving parts except a couple of gates. Their jobs range from "law enforcement" to "personnel management."

Yep. Personnel to manage the personnel.

What kind of "law enforcement"? Glad you asked. Before the BLM took over, local residents could safely target shoot in a box canyon off Lee Canyon Road, far from any human habitation, 13 miles north of Red Rock Canyon. Today, federal "law enforcement" rangers from Red Rock travel up there to warn locals they can't target shoot in the area, now posted with signs that puzzlingly warn hunting is allowed, but "not shooting."

"I'm not very keen on fees to visit our public lands, our taxpayer-supported lands," comments John Hiatt, conservation chairman of the Red Rock Audubon Society. "In a way, we are getting taxed twice. The public owns the lands, and now we're getting charged to use them."

The Red Rock staff list actually includes 54 job titles. One vacant position is a "budget analyst." Perhaps, if they get their fee hikes, the BLM can hire that analyst ... to help them determine how many more "fee collection stations" they need.

At that point, estimated personnel costs for federal "supervision" of a 13-mile scenic road will run $741,988.81 per year.

Not counting outhouses.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


10th Circuit dismisses NM grassland appeal as moot The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver has dismissed an appeal of oil and gas leases in south-central New Mexico as moot since the leases no longer exist. A three-judge panel, in a decision Tuesday, said the termination of the leases in Luna County on the Nutt Grasslands left the court with no case and "no meaningful grounds for relief." It sent the case back to federal court in New Mexico with instructions to dismiss it. The Bureau of Land Management sold the oil and gas leases in contention to Imperial Oil Properties of Wichita, Kan., in January 2003. The New Mexico Wilderness Alliance had asked that areas be withdrawn from the sale, arguing that leases could harm the wilderness value of the grasslands. The alliance alleged the BLM violated the National Environmental Policy Act by not doing certain analyses. The BLM rejected the protest in 2003, saying an environmental impact statement prepared for the 1993 Mimbres resource management plan satisfied the requirement. The Wilderness Alliance, the Chihuahuan Grasslands Alliance and the Sky Island Alliance went to federal court in October 2004, contending the agency violated NEPA and failed to assess the environmental consequences of leasing....

Ninth Circuit rules on conservation groups' standing In an opinion issued today, the Ninth Circuit in Salmon Spawning & Recovery Alliance v. Gutierrez held that a coalition of salmon conservation groups lacked standing to pursue two claims against the National Marine Fisheries Service and other agencies arising out of a 1999 treaty between the US and Canada governing salmon harvests. The groups contended that (1) the Service's failure to consult adequately over the 1999 treaty in a 2005 biological opinion violated the ESA; they also argued that the Service continues to violate the ESA by (2) implementing the treaty's harvest limits, and (3) not reinitiating consultation. As to the first claim, the court held that it could provide no relief to the groups that would redress their injury (excessive take of salmon), because the injury was caused by the 1999 treaty, which the court cannot undo. As for the second claim, the court held that, even though it could overturn the bi-op, that remedy would not be likely to redress the groups' injury: US withdrawal from the treaty might well produce an increase in Canadian salmon takes. But the court reversed the lower court and found that the groups had established standing to pursue their third claim, viz., the failure to reinitiate consultation....

PLF challenges unwarranted polar bear listing On October 2, 2008, PLF filed a complaint in the federal district court of the District of Columbia challenging the listing of the polar bear as a "threatened" species under the Endangered Species Act. PLF represents a wide spectrum of small businesses, food producers, family farmers, property owners, employers and consumers as well the poor and minorities nationwide who would be harmed by restrictive regulations that will likely result from the polar bear listing. This is the first time in the history of the ESA that a thriving species has been listed based entirely on speculative models forecasting future events. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has declared the polar bear to be threatened solely because admittedly unverified and uncertain climate models predict a declining trend in Arctic sea ice, and not because of any current decline in the polar bear population. The final rule repeatedly admonishes that forecasted population numbers and estimated time periods are not to be taken at face value. Instead, the Rule states that the trend in sea ice is worrisome and that the listing is warranted because melting sea ice will negatively affect polar bear populations, perhaps resulting in steady decline in abundance. The problem with this conclusion is three-fold. First. The Service admits that the listing of the polar bear as threatened will not address this concern. According to Secretary Kempthorne, the polar bear is already protected by other laws and treaties and "this listing will not stop global climate change or prevent sea ice from melting" in the Arctic. In other words the listing will not address the very threat on which the listing was based. Second, the climate models relied on by the Service undercut rather than support the listing. Relying on worst case scenarios, these models predict a 78-90% survival rate over the next 40-50 years. The government’s own studies do not forecast an irretrievable decline but anticipate that the polar bear population mid-century will be about 20,000 strong, approximately double the numbers 50-60 years ago. And third, the current demographic data show that while global temperatures have increased over the past century, the polar bear population has also increased. It is now the highest in recorded history: an estimated 25,000. Three-quarters of the nineteen polar bear populations are either increasing, stable, or indeterminate in size....
Dingell, Boucher call for steep greenhouse gas cuts The darkening economic outlook may force lawmakers to delay some public policy priorities, but two House Democrats indicated Tuesday that curbing global warming won’t be one of them. House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Energy and Air Quality subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) released a 461-page bill that seeks to cut greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 80 percent over the next four decades. Environmental groups welcomed that target, but criticized the bill, which Dingell and Boucher refer to as a “discussion draft,” for delaying dramatic emissions reductions until after 2020. The long-awaited legislation relies on a so-called cap-and-trade program to make those reductions. Companies would be able to buy or sell emissions allowances on an open market, depending on whether they met or exceeded emissions caps set by federal regulators. “Politically, scientifically, legally, and morally, the question has been settled: regulation of greenhouse gases in the United States is coming,” Dingell and Boucher wrote to committee members on Tuesday. “The only remaining question is what form that regulation will take.” Part of the impetus for the release of the bill seems to be to head off a separate effort at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to cut emissions through federal regulation, an option made available last year when the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had the authority, under the Clean Air Act, to address global warming....

Utah BLM swings the door wide for ATVs and energy development
The worn walls of the ruins in Cedar Mesa change colors as the sun moves across the sky, glowing orange-red in the late afternoon to match the cliffs above and below them. The southeastern Utah site, home to ancestral Puebloans on and off from about 1 to 1300 A.D., remains fairly unspoiled, thanks to special federal protection. But now the Bureau of Land Management plans to open up the area for more recreational use. Agency officials say this will better protect the ruins, but archaeologists fear it could destroy them. Cedar Mesa is just one of the places that would lose protection under six proposed resource management plans recently released by Utah’s BLM. The documents cement a 20-year management strategy for wilderness, cultural resource preservation, energy development, hiking, grazing and motorized recreation across about 11 million acres of public land, including nearly all of the state’s red-rock country. In their current forms, the plans open about 80 percent of this land to energy development. Nearly half a million acres of unique natural and cultural sites, like Cedar Mesa, will lose their status as areas of critical environmental concern. That means more visitors and fewer protective measures. Off-road vehicles will be able to crisscross the delicate desert landscape on more than 17,000 miles of designated routes. The vast majority of roadless areas with wilderness value will be opened to both motorized recreation and oil and gas drilling....

Park wireless plan draws protests The new Yellowstone Park Wireless Communications Plan, which leaves the door open for placing Webcams in the back country and will, if approved, bring additional cell service to folks who want to stay connected, is spooking some who say solitude is being traded for technology. “Yellowstone now aspires to be an amusement park,” said Bill Boteler, from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a nonprofit group advocating responsible management of public resources. But park representatives say Yellowstone is trying to balance visitor demands for solitude with the connectivity people have come to expect in daily life, said Al Nash, public affairs officer for Yellowstone National Park. The communications plan will be up for debate through Oct. 31, when the public comment period closes. As it stands, the plan calls for constructing one new cell tower, which will serve the Lake and Bridge fishing areas....

State pays for livestock losses due to wolves The payout is rising for Montana in its new role of compensating for livestock losses to wolves, with some uncertainty about where this year’s tally will stop. “We had no way to gauge this, being in operation for just a year,” said George Edwards, the Montana Department of Agriculture’s livestock loss mitigation coordinator. Compensation programs for wolves and grizzly bears had been run for years by Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group. But the state assumed that role this year under a Montana Wolf Management plan and authorization from the Legislature. The 2007 Legislature provided $30,000 in one-time funding and Defenders of Wildlife put up $100,000 to fund the program this year and next year. Last week, The Greater Yellowstone Coalition contributed another $1,000, Edwards said....
Cutting junipers can bring back water supply John Swanson, a rangeland management specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, has seen similar things happen. He's seen little patches of green grass turn into a spring with flowing water and streamside vegetation two years after removing junipers. "There had been lots of anecdotal information from landowners and others that said when we cut a large group of juniper trees, we had increased flows from a stream, or we turned streams from ephemeral to almost perennial," said Tim Deboodt, Oregon State University Extension agent in Prineville. "But that's all they were, were stories." Now, however, Deboodt and other researchers are getting the first set of results from the 15-year Camp Creek Paired Watershed Study that examines how the removal of junipers which can suck up more than 30 gallons of water a day affects water flows in the High Desert. Then, almost three years ago, crews started cutting down hundreds of junipers in one watershed, leaving only the old-growth trees that were standing before settlers came to the region. In the other watershed, they let the junipers stand. And they took more measurements. "We did get an increase of spring flow in the treated watershed, and most important, we had a huge difference in the late-season flow, the time from late July through September, when we don't get much rain, if any at all," Deboodt said. A spring that had flowed at an average of 2 gallons a minute now pumped out 6 to 7 gallons a minute, he said. And that extra water is beneficial for wildlife and can also create little wetlands, he said: "It sort of makes some unique habitat, little oases on the desert." Extra water could also provide more flexibility for ranchers, because if more pastures stayed greener later into the fall, they could have more options for where to graze their livestock, he said....
Federal Judge Puts Albuquerque's Green Building Code on Hold Saying its measures infringe on areas preempted by federal law, a U.S. District Court judge has barred enforcement of Albuquerque's green building code pending the outcome of a lawsuit brought by a group of HVAC and water heating equipment trade organizations, contractors and distributors. Chief District Court Judge Martha Vázquez of New Mexico issued the order on October 3 that grants the plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. The move blocks enforcement of the first and second volumes of the Albuquerque Energy Conservation Code and High Performance Building Ordinance, which were adopted by the City Council in 2007. The case has been watched closely by the legal community specializing in green building and by other local governments. As part of Albuquerque's drive to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, its 2007 measures called for a 30 percent increase in energy efficiency for new commercial and residential buildings and those undergoing substantial renovations. In her 24-page order on Friday, Vázquez wrote, "The city's goals in enacting Albuquerque's Energy Conservation Code and the Albuquerque High Performance Buildings Ordinance are laudable. Unfortunately, the drafters of the code were unaware of the long-standing federal statutes governing the energy efficiency of certain HVAC and water heating products and expressly preempting state regulation of these products when the code was drafted and, as a result, the code, as enacted, infringes on an area preempted by federal law."....

Mad-cow ban cost U.S. $11 billion in beef exports U.S. ranchers and processors lost almost $11 billion in revenue between 2004 and 2007 after major importers barred U.S. beef following the discovery of mad cow disease in the United States, according to a government report issued on Tuesday. The International Trade Commission said trade restrictions put in place because of mad cow disease cost the U.S. beef industry between $1.5 billion and $2.7 billion in annual revenue between 2004 and 2007. Japan and Korea were responsible for $9.4 billion of the $11 billion estimated in total lost revenue. Beef shipments from the United States were virtually halted after it found its first case of mad cow disease in December 2003 in Washington state. Global U.S. beef sales have been edging higher, but not quickly enough for the Bush administration, or for the beef industry, which complain of age restrictions and inflexible import rules....

Front Burner: Crazy about Q You see all kinds of spellings for Texas' favorite meat, but Webster's says it's barbecue. The October issue of Everyday With Rachael Ray magazine asked food historians John Shelton Reed and Robb Walsh the stories behind the spellings. They contend: Barbecue: This spelling was derived from the Spanish barbacoa, meaning "fire-cured meat." Barbeque: More common in the South, "Reed theories that Southerners don't like being told by Yankees how to spell their official dish," according to the magazine. BBQ: "Shaky literacy skills led to a phonetic abbreviation of barbecue," most likely, though one theory is that it comes from the time that roadhouses with pool tables advertised "bar, beer and cues." Bar-B-Que: Supposedly a rancher, Barnaby Quinn or Bernard Quayle, who was known for having the best steaks around, branded his cattle B.Q with a bar underneath, "making good grilled meat and Bar-B-Q synonymous," according to the magazine....

EPA To Announce Rules For Penned Animals The federal Environmental Protection agency will propose new rules for "confined animal feeding operations," something it has tried to do and had challenged in court. "I have confidence that we have the legal authority to do this. I'm also confident we'll be sued," said Benjamin H. Grumbles, assistant administrator for water quality for the EPA. The new rules should be out this month but could arrive as late as November, he said. The EPA identifies a "CAFO" as an operation is which feed is brought to the animals instead of allowing room to graze. The number of animals penned varies by animal. A horse feeding operation, for instance, requires 150 horses to automatically be defined as a CAFO. A broiler operation usually requires at least 9,000 birds, according to EPA definitions. The new regulations will spell out permit requirements for CAFOs, but issuing of those permits will still be done by states, Grumbles said in an interview after his remarks. The EPA wants a nationwide standard for these operations that includes disposal of the manure or litter, he said. The number of concentrated animal feeding operations increased 230 percent between 1982 and 2002, according to a GAO summary released last month....

Farmers work to encourage native bee habitat With honeybee populations weakened by disease and the mysterious malady known as Colony Collapse Disorder, farmers place new focus on work to benefit native pollinators. Decisions by farmers and ranchers to replace bare ground along irrigation ditches and roadways with native plants, trees and grasses, in order to encourage beneficial insects and eliminate weeds, have evolved into a movement to bring native bees back to the farming landscape. Farmers in Yolo County--the epicenter of this work--have partnered with various organizations to lead the way in protecting populations of native bees and restoring native bee habitat. "The overall goal is to increase the capacity of these farms to support native bees for crop pollination," Mace Vaughan said. He directs the Pollinator Program for the Xerces Society, a non-profit group dedicated to conserving invertebrate species....

Cowboy sings the blues Music of the modern, mountain West celebrates traditions. The Trailing of the Sheep Festival will focus on the West's contemporary landscape with its presentation "The Songs and Stories of Sheepherding," featuring up-and-coming singer and songwriter Brenn Hill. Hill will be joined by other contemporary storytellers, Linda and Carolyn Dufurrena and Francisco Colqui, on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 7 p.m. at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum. Hill is not just a Western singer—he is also an inspired poet. His beliefs and ideology complement the festival's mission of "gather, present and preserve the history and cultures of sheep ranching in Idaho and the West."....

Tuesday, October 07, 2008


A move to secede on California-Oregon border Some folks around here think the economic sky is falling and state lawmakers in Sacramento and Salem are ignoring their constituents in the hinterlands. Guess the time is ripe to create a whole new state. That's the thinking up here along the border between California and Oregon, where 12 sparsely populated, thickly forested counties in both states want to break away and generate the 51st star on the nation's flag - the state of Jefferson. You can see the signs of discontent from Klamath Falls to Dunsmuir, where green double-X "Jefferson State" flags hang in scores of businesses. You can hear the talk of revolution at lunch counters and grocery lines, where people grumble that politicians to the north and south don't care. You can even hear the dissent on the radio, where 21 area FM stations broadcast from Oregon into California under the banner of "Jefferson Public Radio." Talking about secession has been a quasi-joking conversational saw since 1941, when five counties in the area started things by actually declaring themselves - briefly - to be the state of Jefferson. But now, with the economy in trouble and unemployment soaring, the idea of greater independence is getting its most serious consideration since World War II. Locals complain that federal and state regulators have hampered the fishing and timber industries to protect forestlands and endangered species such as sucker fish and the spotted owl. Jobs are so scarce that the median income in the area is only two-thirds that of the rest of the state. Most water from the rainy Shasta region is shipped south, with little economic benefit to the area. Even the California sales tax draws sneers. If they ran their own state, the reasoning goes, folks in Siskiyou, Modoc and the other potential Jefferson counties could whack the red tape from both federal and state officials and get rid of the sales tax....
The Ethanol Election Issue One place they most notice a major problem, however, is at the gas pump where prices continue to remain over $3.50 a gallon. It is doubtful anyone really thinks about the part of that cost that can be attributed to the government mandate that each gallon include ethanol. Other costs include the government mandated different blends of gasoline required in different regions or sections of the nation. The refinery costs of that are built into the price as well. Then, of course, there are the federal and state gasoline taxes that add considerably to the cost. Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow with the Hudson Institute and Director of Global Food Issues, recently took note of the disparities between the candidate’s positions on ethanol. “Obama wants more ethanol, while McCain thinks we should probably have less,” noting that “both say man-made global warming is a serious threat, and both say they want the best for the nation’s farmers.” Both candidates are wrong on many counts, not the least is their belief that global warming is either man-made or actually happening. It is not. Ironically, the wailing about man-made greenhouse gas emissions completely ignores the fact that ethanol actually contributes more carbon dioxide to the atmosphere while, at the same time, decreasing the mileage per gallon of gasoline. Obama’s national campaign co-chair is Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader and longtime ethanol booster. Daschle serves on the boards of three key ethanol companies. Obama represents Illinois, a state that trails only Iowa and Nebraska in ethanol production capacity. If you have any hope of seeing the price of gasoline reduced or the cost of food decrease, that will not happen if Obama is elected....

Deadlines set for designating polar bear habitat The federal government will designate "critical habitat" for polar bears off Alaska's coast, a decision that could add restrictions to future offshore petroleum exploration or drilling. Federal law prohibits agencies from taking actions that may adversely modify critical habitat and interfere with polar bear recovery. That likely will affect oil and gas activity, said Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of three groups that sued to force the critical habitat designation. "Other than global warming, the worst thing that's going on in polar bear habitat right now is oil development and the potential for oil spills," Siegel said. Bruce Woods, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage, said it's not known what area in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska's northwest coast might be designated for polar bears, especially given that sea ice conditions are changing and areas now covered by ice might in the future be open water. The agreement to designate critical habitat was filed Monday as part of a partial settlement of a lawsuit brought by Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Siegel's group....
Federal judge's decision makes delisting wolves much harder The path to delisting the Rocky Mountain Gray Wolf just got steeper with a decision by a Washington, D.C., federal judge Sept. 29. The delisting of Yellowstone grizzly bears also may be in doubt. Judge Paul L. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered the Bush administration Monday to take back protection for gray wolves in the Great Lakes area under the Endangered Species Act. His decision, while technical, cuts to the heart of managing endangered species, especially large predators that have so many conflicts with people. Gray wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2007 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. The population is booming and spreading out across the Midwest into the suburbs, farmland and south as far as Iowa. Wolves are spreading far beyond where all but the most doctrinaire environmentalists want them to be. For Minnesota, especially, which had wolves protected since 1975, delisting was a big relief and an opportunity to manage the species easier around farmers and others who suffered from wolf attacks on their pets and livestock. Friedman said in his opinion that the central issue was whether the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may delist a "distinct population segment" of a species that is thriving even though the broader species remains endangered elsewhere. Friedman said the Fish and Wildlife Service must give him and other judges a better explanation why they believe they can delist a species across part of its range even if it wasn't first listed that way. That presents a new issue for the Bush administration if it intends to try to relist Rocky Mountain gray wolves before the end of his term. Its delisting package also limited where wolves would come off the list. It is an even bigger issue for the delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear since it was listed across the lower 48 states and delisted only in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana....

Idaho bear hound owner blames wolves for kill An Idaho couple blames wolves for killing a dog they used to hunt bears, though state Department of Fish and Game officials haven't confirmed the claim. Brent and Connie Ottosen, who live 20 miles south of Coeur d'Alene, believe a pack mauled and ate their 4-year-old hound, Blackjack, along the Coeur d'Alene River last week. The Ottosens say they were hunting near U.S. Interstate 90 with seven of their dogs when six began trailing a bear. Blackjack ran after another scent. When they found the dog a day later, about two-thirds of its body had been eaten. Brent Ottosen now says his family may move elsewhere, claiming hunting bears has become too difficult and dangerous with wolves moving in. Ottosen said he suspects wolves were behind the attack because of the way Blackjack was eaten. "What canines do is eat through the rib bones. A lion or bear would go for a heart or liver," he said. "A typical wolf would eat about 20 pounds. There was never enough time for a mountain lion to eat that much." While wolves have killed dogs around nearby northern Idaho communities including Calder, Mullan and Avery, state Fish and Game officials declined to confirm they were behind Blackjack's death, saying it was only a possibility....
1 in 4 Mammals Threatened, Study Says An “extinction crisis” is under way, with one in four mammals in danger of disappearing because of habitat loss, hunting and climate change, a leading global conservation body warned Monday. “Within our lifetime, hundreds of species could be lost as a result of our own actions,” said Julia Marton-Lefèvre, the director general of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, or I.U.C.N., a network of campaign groups, governments, scientists and other experts. Among 188 mammals in the group’s highest threat category — critically endangered — was the Iberian lynx, which has an estimated population of 84 adults and has continued to decline as its primary prey, the European rabbit, has fallen victim to disease and overhunting. The report, presented at the World Conservation Congress in Barcelona, formed part of a Red List of Threatened Species issued annually by the group. Jan Schipper, the director of the global mammal assessment for the I.U.C.N. and for Conservation International, an environmental group, said it was hard to draw a direct comparison with the last detailed survey on mammals, in 1996. New species have been identified, others discovered, and the criteria used to assess species have been made more broadly applicable across all animals and plants....
BLM to Acquire Meadow Valley Mountains Parcels The Director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has approved the first acquisition of sensitive land under the Lincoln County Lands Act (LCLA). Three parcels, totaling 720 acres, that contain critical habitat for desert tortoise, will be consolidated in public ownership with other publicly-owned land in the area. The three parcels are adjacent to the Coyote Springs development and the Mormon Mountain Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), about 60 miles north of Las Vegas. The owner of the property, The Conservation Fund, is asking for a purchase price of not more than $3.68 million. An appraisal to determine the fair market value will need to be completed before the property comes into federal ownership....
BLM wants Nine Mile Canyon on Historic Places list Federal officials want parts of Utah’s Nine Mile Canyon put on the National Register of Historic Places. The canyon northeast of Price — sometimes called the world’s longest art gallery — is home to more than 10,000 ancient rock carvings and drawings. Bureau of Land Management officials plan to nominate the area for the national designation. The paperwork will probably be submitted in the next four to six months, said Byron Loosle, BLM’s state archaeologist. The nomination will include about 800 sites in the canyon, including parts of public and private land. Some private landowners in the area have asked not to be included and won’t be in the proposal, Loosle said. The BLM hopes to group the sites together under a single nomination. The decision comes as the BLM considers a proposal to allow more than 800 new wells on a plateau above the canyon. The plan has come under fire over concerns that increased natural gas activity will dramatically increase the number of trucks driving through the canyon. Some worry extra dust kicked up by the trucks will jeopardize the rock art....
It makes no sense that animal lovers support predation The so-called animal lovers seem to have a special affinity for predators. A mountain lion's understanding of "love" falls in the category of "a great liking or fondness" for warm flesh, from house cat and dog to human children. Coyotes are carnivores that are virtually nondiscriminating. I heard the cries of a deer one winter night and discovered these "precious carnivores" ripping the intestines out of a still-living doe deer. Coyotes are great killers, but wolves are better. I guess you could call the way wolves and coyotes operate to control elk and deer populations as teamwork. Can you imagine the outrage if slaughterhouses killed livestock by running them down, hamstringing them and gutting the still-living animals?....
NM approves cougar hunt changes Mountain lion management in New Mexico is changing and wildlife advocates say it's for the better, with new protections for female cats and their kittens and the end of a cougar-snaring program. But the changes aren't sitting well with ranchers and others in southeastern New Mexico. The state Game Commission, at its meeting last week, approved a voluntary hunter education course to teach hunters the difference between male and female cats to ensure that more breeding females are left in the wild. Commissioners also voted in favor of setting a limit on how many cougars can be harvested around the state and how many of those can be female cats. If the number of female kills comes within 10 percent of the limit in a given hunting unit, conservation officers can shut down hunting in that particular area. "New Mexicans and the Game Commission understand that cougars are icons of majesty and wildness. These hunting reforms not only enhance conservation of the species, but reduce the ethical dilemma associated with orphaned cougar kittens," said Wendy Keefover-Ring of WildEarth Guardians....
AT THE SUPREME COURT

Summers v. Earth Island Institute (07-463)

Earth Island Institute and other conservation groups sued the United States Forest Service after it authorized application of regulations 36 C.F.R. 215.4(a) and 36 C.F.R. 215.12(f) to a planned salvage logging project in the Sequoia National Forest. The conservation groups claimed that the regulations, which limit public notice, comment and administrative appeals, were invalid under the Administrative Procedure Act, which protects the ability of the public to appeal administrative actions. The parties settled the dispute over the regulations as they were applied to the salvage logging project, but the conservation groups continued the suit as a direct facial challenge to the regulations themselves. At issue before the Supreme Court in this case is whether judicial review of the regulations was proper, whether the conservation groups established standing and ripeness to challenge the regulations after settling the controversy over the regulations’ application to the specific project, and whether issuing a nationwide injunction was a proper remedy. The outcome of the case will influence federal agencies’ requirements to provide administrative appeals, the ability of the public to challenge administrative actions, and the scope of equitable remedies against improper applications of agency regulations....

Conclusion

This case rests on whether individuals may appeal agency regulations only as they are applied to specific agency actions, or whether individuals may challenge the validity of regulations without linking the challenge to a specific agency project. The Forest Service argues that under the APA, only as-applied regulations may be challenged. The conservation groups, on the other hand, argue that the APA supports direct, facial challenges to agency regulations. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect the rights of individuals to contest unlawful agency regulations and the scope of federal agencies’ responsibilities to provide administrative appeals. The decision will likely clarify the balance between agencies’ autonomy and their transparency toward the public, which will have ramifications for advocacy groups, industry members, and federal agencies.
AT THE SUPREME COURT

Winter v. Natural Res. Def. Council (NRDC) (07-1239)

On March 22, 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council ("NRDC") sued the United States Navy in the District Court for the Central District of California to enjoin the Navy from conducting training exercises off the coast of southern California. Specifically, the NRDC sought to prevent the Navy from using mid-frequency active ("MFA") sonar during these exercises because such use harmed whales and other marine mammals, in violation of several environmental laws. The District Court concluded in January 2008 that NRDC had proven that allowing the exercises to continue would cause near certain harm to the environment and issued a preliminary injunction. In response to the injunction, both the President and the Council for Environmental Quality ("CEQ") exempted the Navy from two environmental statutes, finding that emergency circumstances existed which allowed the training to continue. The District Court, however, found the exemptions were improper and upheld its preliminary injunction, and the Ninth Circuit affirmed. The Navy challenges this decision by arguing that courts below used too lax of a standard when deciding that a preliminary injunction was justified and that the judiciary improperly interfered with the executive branch’s authority to control the military. How the Supreme Court decides this case will not only reflect its view on balancing environmental protection and national security, but also clarify the roles each Federal branch has in these matters....

Conclusion

This case addresses an important question about the significance of environmental protection. The answer may hinge on the Supreme Court’s view of the balance among the three branches of government, and the extent of the executive branch’s authority over the military. Overall, the Supreme Court’s decision on the separation of powers will have implications beyond the immediate issue of environmental protection.

Guidelines Expand FBI's Surveillance Powers Justice Department officials released new guidelines yesterday that empower FBI agents to use intrusive techniques to gather intelligence within the United States, alarming civil liberties groups and Democratic lawmakers who worry that they invite privacy violations and other abuses. The new road map allows investigators to recruit informants, employ physical surveillance and conduct interviews in which agents disguise their identities in an effort to assess national security threats. FBI agents could pursue each of those steps without any single fact indicating a person has ties to a terrorist organization. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said the guidelines are necessary to fulfill the FBI's core mission to predict threats and respond even before an attack takes place. Civil liberties activists yesterday raised anew questions about the expanded role of the FBI in collecting an array of foreign intelligence within U.S. borders, absent evidence of a crime. For instance, the guidelines allow FBI agents to conduct interviews and monitor the movement of people who may possess useful information on subjects of general interest to American policymakers, such as a foreign government's oil exports....
FBI Prevents Agents from Telling 'Truth' About 9/11 on PBS The FBI has blocked two of its veteran counterterrorism agents from going public with accusations that the CIA deliberately withheld crucial intelligence before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. FBI Special Agents Mark Rossini and Douglas Miller have asked for permission to appear in an upcoming public television documentary, scheduled to air in January, on pre-9/11 rivalries between the CIA, FBI and National Security Agency. The program is a spin-off from The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America, by acclaimed investigative reporter James Bamford, due out in a matter of days. The FBI denied Rossini and Miller permission to participate in the book or the PBS "NOVA" documentary, which is also being written and produced by Bamford, on grounds that the FBI "doesn't want to stir up old conflicts with the CIA," according to multiple reliable sources....
Feds Tout New Domestic Intelligence Centers Federal, state and local cops are huddling together in domestic intelligence dens around the nation to fuse anti-terror information and tips in ways they never have before, and they want the American people to know about it -- sort of. Homeland Security Under Secretary Charlie Allen, formerly of the CIA, described how sharing threat assessments, and even the occasional raw intel, with the new fusion centers marks a cultural shift from the Cold War era. Back then, spies treated everyone, other departments and agencies included, as suspicious. The fifty or so U.S. fusion centers are where the federal, state and local cops share intelligence, sift data for clues, run down reports of suspicious packages and connect dots in an effort to detect and thwart terrorism attacks, drug smuggling and gang fighting. The dominant catchphrase from the officials was that the centers need to focus on "all threats, all hazards." That means that the fusion centers would be working on immigration, radicalization, demographic changes, hurricanes, biological and chemical threats, as well as common criminal activity. Officials say the centers must look at even the most mundane crimes, since they can be used to fund terrorism. But critics say that "all hazards, all threats" approach sounds suspiciously like the government is building a distributed domestic intelligence service that could easily begin keeping tabs on Americans exercising their First Amendment rights. The scope also seems at odds with the federal government's Information Sharing Environment guidelines, which say these centers are supposed to focus on terrorism. California's Anti-Terrorism Information Center admitted to spying on anti-war groups in 2003. And Denver's police department built their own secret spy files on Quakers and 200 other organizations. Earlier this year, the ACLU issued a warning report about Fusion Centers, complete with an interactive fusion center map, earlier this year. The report, entitled What's Wrong With Fusion Centers, cited concerns about military units operating in the centers, as well as the potential for scope creep and data mining. How, the group asked, can citizens contest information about themselves, given the patchwork of state, local and federal sunshine laws that may or may not apply....